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A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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“I still haven’t made up my mind whether I shall publish it all. Some people are so humorless, so uncharitable, and so absurdly wrong-headed, that one would probably do far better to relax and enjoy life than worry oneself to death trying to instruct or entertain a public which will only despise one’s efforts, or at least feel no gratitude for them. Most readers know nothing about canon law. Many regard it with contempt and find everything heavy going that isn’t completely lowbrow. Some are so grimly serious that they disapprove of all humor. Others come to different conclusions every time they stand up or sit down. They seize upon your publications, as a wrestler seizes upon his opponent’s hair, and use them to drag you down, while they themselves remain quite invulnerable, because their barren pates are completely bald, so there’s nothing for you to get hold of.”
— St. Thomas More to Peter Gilles, 1516

How Does One Use The Ordo Cantus Missæ?
published 29 July 2013 by Jeff Ostrowski

597 Gregorian Missal INALLY, HOW DOES ONE USE the pages of the Ordo Cantus Missæ? To repeat what has been said in the documents, the Ordo Cantus Missæ normally simply points to the official 1908 Graduale and says “take the chants from this Sunday.” For instance, in the sample page we’re about to examine, you can see that the “15th Sunday in Ordinary time” says, “Take the chants from the 10th Sunday after Pentecost”:

      * *  Example page from the Ordo Cantus Missae

But what about the “B” circled in pink and the “I” and “II” circled in green? What in the world do those mean? Steven Van Roode explains:

This is explained in the Praenotanda, n. 20 (p. 11) of the Ordo Cantus Missae. In the section 'Proprium tempore’ the chants for each week are listed. Your scan is from this section. These chants are to be sung on Sunday and all weekdays, except for the days indicted by the indented characters at the end of the week’s list: letters A, B and C indicate that there are other chants for the Sunday of Year A, B or C (which are specified on pp. 62-64), and roman numerals indicate that there are other chants for weekdays in Year I or II, with the Arabic numerals indicating the weekday (2 = feria secunda = Monday, etc.); these are specified on pp. 65-74.

So, for the fifteenth week in Ordinary Time (n. 112) we have the chants of the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost from the 1961 Graduale Romanum:
      IN Dum clamarem
      GR Custodi me
      OF Ad te levavi
      AL Te decet hymnus

. . . except for the Communion:
      CO Passer invenit

. . . and ad libitum options:
      IN Ego autem cum iustitia
      CO Qui mandicat

So far, so good. Now we come to the “B” circled in pink. Apparently, there are other chants for Sunday of Year B (specified on p. 63):
      GR Ostende nobis

And there are other chants for Year I (Monday and Thursday) and Year II (Thursday) (specified on p. 70; note the arrangement of the data: left for Year I, right for Year II and centre for Year I ánd II):
      Year I (Monday): GR Anima nostra
      Year I and II (Thursday): AL Venite ad me

All these different chants match the readings of the Sunday or weekday and are duly given in the 1974 Graduale Romanum. I hope this explanation made clear how the OCM indicates alternative chants for Sundays and weekdays.

OK . . . SO WHAT?  What’s the lesson here?  What is my point, precisely?

My point should be obvious. The Ordo Cantus Missæ is incredibly difficult to use. It almost couldn’t be more confusing than it is. It is totally unhelpful.

The good news is that the hard work has been done for us already with the Solesmes 1974 Graduale, the Solesmes Gregorian Missal (2012), the Lalemant Propers, the Simple English Propers (CMAA), and many other collections. Therefore, you don’t have to fool around with the Ordo Cantus Missæ . . . which is probably why very few people own this book!

This article is part of a series:

Part 1   •   Part 2